Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show last year was widely lauded for its inclusion of a diverse range of models and celebrities, including the likes of Lizzo, Drag Queen Shea Couleé and Demi Moore. Not to mention the incredible show put on by dancers, which helped to redefine the fashion show as more of a live performance meets work of art.
But amid the praise, there was also severe backlash online when fans heard one of the songs played during the show which sampled Islamic sayings.
The song in question, titled “Doom” and produced by Coucou Chloe, included a remixed verse that relayed Islamic proverbs known as hadiths—records of the sayings or customs of the prophet Muhammad and his companions, which are considered sacred to Muslims. As the song was played, the show’s models danced along the runway in lingerie, causing further offence to followers of Islam.
Following the show, fans were quick to call out Rihanna online, labelling her as “disrespectful” and accusing her of appropriating the sacred Islamic sayings. Coucou Chloe responded to the backlash immediately, issuing a series of tweets in which she took full responsibility for the mistake, explaining she hadn’t done research on the samples used, which she said was found online.
“I want to deeply apologise for the offence caused by the vocal samples used in my song ‘DOOM’,” she tweeted. “The song was created using samples from Baile Funk tracks I found online. At the time, I was not aware that these samples used text from an Islamic Hadith. I take full responsibility for the fact I did not research these words properly and want to thank those of you who have taken the time to explain this to me. We have been in the process of having the song urgently removed from all streaming platforms.”
A few days later, Rihanna apologised to fans in a statement issued to her Instagram story, calling the incident an “honest, yet careless mistake.”
“We understand that we have hurt many of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and I’m incredibly disheartened by this!” she wrote. “I do not play with any kind of disrespect toward God or any religion and therefore the use of the song in our project was completely irresponsible! Moving forward we will make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Thank you for your forgiveness and understanding.”
Now, the anonymous artist of the song has sued Rihanna’s team for the emotional damage she allegedly endured following the airing of the Savage x Fenty show. According to a lawsuit filed over the weekend, Rihanna’s team reportedly reached out to the artist last year—who used the pseudonym Jane Doe to protect her identity—asking to use one of her songs.
In response, the artist allegedly sent Rihanna’s team two different versions—one including the Islamic proverbs being chanted, and one without. They allegedly requested for the version without the proverbs to be played. However, they allege it was still played, despite the prior warning.
The artist claims she was afraid for her safety following the incident, alleging she had been “bombarded” with abusive death threats that were so extreme she had to “go into hiding.” The artist also claimed she has been suffering from depression and anxiety following the incident and the abuse she received. She is seeking $10 million in damages as a result.